Walking down the hallway, looking sidelong into passing doorways, I saw a head bent and titled at an angle that was achingly familiar. For a second, I expected her head to pop up, the mile-wide grin and lit-up eyes accompanying a squeal that could be recognized across campus. But I wasn’t at SMU anymore, I’ve long since graduated and I’m walking down the hallways of my graduate university. And the capped head didn’t belong to my best friend, because she’s been gone for more than four years.
My grief is a topic that I keep to myself. It doesn’t crop up regularly, on the first and the fifteenth to accompany my paycheck. It is subtle, hidden in cues like inflections of the voice and the long-legged gait of strangers who bring to mind all the ways I remember her. It doesn’t feel like a tidal wave of sadness but more like a trickle of pain. I consider where she would have been in life, her career, her love life and the next generation she would have showered in her affections. As more of our cohorts pledge lifelong bonds through engagements, marriages and the production of tiny versions of themselves, I struggle to reconcile how excited I am with the fact that someone who always celebrated with me isn’t part of this journey.
One memory that carries me through is the grace of her family, their heads held high through the injustice of it all. Perhaps they kept it bottled in to release it in their prayers, or during a run or with a counselor. All I know is what I see, which is almost otherworldly in presence and love. It inspires me, and I’m convinced it’s her spirit being channeled back to the Earth, to give us comfort. And it brings me peace.